According to a survey by employee review and job site company, Glassdoor, the average U.S worker has taken just 54% of their entitled vacation time in the past 12 months. This may appear to be a welcome statistic for employers since employees are spending more time at work. However, encouraging your team to take the time off that they’re eligible to make good business sense. Research shows that vacations reduce stress and make your team more productive in the long run.
Having an understanding of the importance of time off makes it less stressful when regulating your team’s vacation requests. You have to balance the needs of your business with promoting your employees’ well-being. With efficient systems in place to manage team vacation requests, it’s less likely that you’ll be accused of unfairness if and when you’re unable to grant an employee time off.
Mishandling vacation requests could lead to disgruntled employees who’ll simply look for alternative employment. Irrespective of the industry your business operates in, it can be a challenge to find good employees. It follows that you should do everything in your power to retain a great team, which includes managing vacation requests effectively.
Here are five ways to regulate your team’s vacations requests to ensure your business is always covered and continues to run smoothly:
1. Create a leave policy.
Everyone should be on the same page in relation to team vacation requests. Take the guesswork out of asking for time off by creating a leave policy. This policy should include your team’s responsibilities, obligations, and rights in terms of making vacation requests. The policy should include a step-by-step description of your vacation request and approval process. The structure of your leave policy will depend on your individual business, but the following are three common categories:
- Employees have a specified amount of vacation days at the start of the work year and, if days aren’t taken, the time is lost. This type of leave policy is known as ‘use it or lose it.’
- Employees have a fixed number of vacation days per annum and days that are unused rollover into the next year.
- Employees have an unrestricted amount of vacation days.
Regardless of the type of leave policy you create, the following should be included in your vacation procedure:
- Description of who is eligible for vacation leave.
- The number of vacation employees are eligible for.
- The number of leave days (if any) that can be carried over.
After you create your leave policy, it needs to be communicated to your employees when they start work. To avoid confusion and doubt, ensure you have a way to identify when employees have read your leave policy. Deputy’s News Feed has the functionality to upload documents, like your leave policy, and allows you to ask for confirmation that your employees have read and understood the document.
2. Have a formal time off system.
Using Excel spreadsheets and other manual systems to regulate your team’s vacation requests will cause confusion and leave you open to accusations of unfairness. A top employee complaint is that employers show favoritism to certain team members. Using an automated tool to regulate vacation requests can highlight disparities in allocating vacation. An automated system can be used to rotate employees, which will avoid the resentment that may result if the same people continue to get their leave approved. You’re less likely to get complaints if there’s a rotation system that allocates leave on a fair basis.
It’s likely that most of your team will want time off during the holidays. A ‘first come, first served’ basis may be a simple way of regulating your team’s vacation requests, but this could end up causing inconsistencies which favor employees who are aware of their plans in advance. Allocating leave without a rotation system could result in unintended favoritism. After all, as a manager or owner, you have a million and one things to worry about and may not remember who had leave for the holidays last year.
You could design a simple rota system where employees are ordered on a list.
This listing could be in alphabetical order to rotate vacation approvals. Names at the top of the list get the holidays of their choice first and then they move to the end of the list. The next employees on the list will get priority the following year. This process enables your team to be clear about when they’ll be entitled to vacations during a holiday period and leaves less room for feelings of discontentment.
In order to rotate employees successfully, you’ll need a system to track requests. Your work management tool should include the functionality to track the following:
- When a vacation request is made.
- The reason for requesting leave.
- When the vacation request was approved.
- Reasons for declining the vacation request.
- The dates of the vacation.
- How many vacation days are left.
With the numerous issues to focus on to keep on top of vacation requests, your work management tool should be capable of providing reports about your individual team member’s vacation history. It should also be able to customize reports showing your team’s’ time off as a whole, to spot patterns and help regulate vacation requests.
3. Set deadlines for vacation requests.
To avoid a flood of vacation requests coming in at the same time, give your team a cut-off date for requesting time off. This approach will also help you to plan for peak times in your business. Give yourself enough time to consider your teams’ vacation requests so you can resolve any conflicts. The deadline for holiday request submission should be included in your leave policy so that all employees know what’s expected of them.
As well as setting a cut-off date for vacation requests, you should also consider imposing a timeframe for when you’ll accept requests. This will prevent employees booking vacation days too far in advance. Approving vacation requests for the following year will leave other team members at a disadvantage. Allowing your team to book vacations too far into the future will make it difficult to schedule new employees leave because your existing team would’ve already booked up most of the allocated vacation time.
4. Give your team autonomy.
There’s no need for your constant input when regulating your team’s vacation requests. You can help to empower employees by allowing them to trade shifts. Permitting your employees to swap shifts enables them to take more responsibility for their work and also reduces allegations of favoritism.
Trading shifts can become very messy and costly if you don’t use the right tools. You need to set parameters for shift trades to be effective for your business and your team. To avoid difficulties like an insufficient cover, overstaffing or the wrong skills mix, your vacation management tool needs to identify the following:
- Employees on the same pay scale.
- Employees with the same skill sets.
- When overtime will be triggered.
To ensure your trade shift procedure operates as it should, include an option in your vacation management tool that requires all shift-swapping arrangements to be approved by the owner or a manager. This safeguard will help you spot any unusual activity in the regulation of your team’s holiday request. For example, where one employee is covering a lot of their team members’ shifts. This could be an indication that the employee is having difficulty saying “no” when asked to work extra shifts and may need your help in dealing with the situation.
5. Offer incentives.
It’s not possible to approve all your teams’ vacation requests during busy times like the holidays. Offer incentives or bonuses to encourage your employees to work during the holidays and other peak times. These incentives could be:
- Additional time off when business is slower.
- Extra pay.
- Preferential shifts.
- Coupons or gift cards.
Before the busy season starts, remind your team that you want them to take a vacation before or after peak times. Let them know the importance of time off to recharge their batteries. This reminder will help you regulate your teams’ holiday request as they’ll see that you care about their wellbeing.
6. Plan with your team.
Transparency will help to build trust when regulating your team’s vacation requests. In addition to your leave policy, it’s advisable to discuss how vacation days will be allocated to your team. If there are issues with a number of team members requesting vacation over a particular period, discuss the issue with your employees. An open dialogue encourages your team to find solutions and gives you the opportunity to ask them to support each other. You may find an open approach will persuade some team members to volunteer to do what it takes to resolve the vacation issues.
Where there are a stalemate and no one in the team wants to budge on postponing their vacation days, suggest compromises to accommodate as many of the team taking time off as possible. Support your team in thinking about solutions to sorting out issues with vacation requests themselves. A collaborative approach will take the pressure off you. It’ll also be more difficult to accuse you of unfairness. Collaborating with your team won’t always work to resolve a particular vacation scheduling issue. In this instance, you’ll need to make the final call. When you do make a decision that will leave some team members disappointed, take the time to explain why you’ve decided on the course of action.
7. Develop a contingency plan.
Despite your best efforts to keep your business fully staffed during busy periods, you might need to approve more vacation requests than you want to. It pays to be prepared with a backup plan to hire seasonal employees. Sometimes, to strike the balance between keeping your team happy and running a successful business, you’ll need to bring in extra help.
If you’ve worked with seasonal workers in the past, contact them to find out whether they’re available to provide cover for the team members that are on vacation. Seasonal employees should form part of your leave policy so that you’ll be aware of when to hire them and the duration of the work you can offer.
Part of regulating your team’s vacation requests is being prepared with contingencies for when things don’t go as planned. A complete leave policy and a comprehensive workforce management tool with vacation approval functionality will mean that it’s less likely you’ll need to hire seasonal staff. However, it makes sense to include seasonal employees in your leave policy to cater for unforeseen circumstances.
You sometimes need to make difficult choices as an owner or manager and regulating your team’s vacation requests is one of these times. However, with a solid leave policy and a workforce management tool that tracks time off and makes it easy for employees to have some degree of control over their time, managing vacation requests can be a simpler and fairer task that benefits your business and your employees.